Earthworks and ruins at Old Bolingbroke, west of Spilsby, are all that remain of thirteenth-century Bolingbroke Castle, believed in the seventeenth century to be haunted by an animal ghost.
Gervase Holles, in notes on Lincolnshire made in 1634–42, wrote:
One thinge is not to be passed by, affirmed as a certaine truth by many of ye inhabitants of ye towne upon their owne knowledge, which is, that ye castle is haunted by a certaine spirit in ye likenesse of a Hare; which att the meeting of ye auditors doth usually runne betweene their legs, & sometymes overthrows them, & so passes away.
Sometimes they chased it down into the castle yard and saw it go in through a grating into a cellar below. Though they followed it there with a light, and though there was no other way out except by the door or window, yet they could never find it. On different occasions it was seen running through gratings into other cellars, of which there were many, and they sent for hounds and put them down after it, ‘but after a while they have come crying out’.
Although Holles does not say so, people may have thought that the hare was a witch’s familiar, rather than the ghost of a once-living hare or one of the county’s many bogey beasts (see BRIGG). He does not mention its colour: in Lincolnshire in the nineteenth century, phantom hares and rabbits were thought, if white, to be dead people’s spirits and it was unlucky to see them. At the turn of the nineteenth century, a white rabbit with luminous eyes regularly appeared near Caistor, but its reason for doing so was unknown.
Haunted England : The Penguin Book of Ghosts – Written by Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson –
Copyright © Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson 2005, 2008